Eus Peters calls them ‘Benidorm Bastards’ – after the Belgian TV program of the same name in which the elderly perform all kinds of antisocial stunts. Such as vaccinated elderly people who have already had one or two injections, and therefore categorically refuse to wear a face mask in supermarkets and shops. The director of the Dutch Retail Council (RND) said he warned about this in January: that could become a problem.
“Everyone laughed at that, but you see it happening. People think: I’ve had my shots, so after me the deluge. There is no support for this measure,” says Peters. “Shop employees are intimidated, also by people who did not like wearing such a mask at all. We see a fair amount of aggression. so I’m glad the measure is going to be lifted.”
‘The measure’ is the mandatory wearing of a mouth cap in public places. On Friday evening, the cabinet announced that from Saturday 26 June it will no longer apply to places where one and a half meters can be kept. The obligation to work from home as much as possible will also disappear. At least for the time being, because no one knows how the pandemic will develop further.
In practice, this means that visitors to, for example, shops, museums and the cinema no longer have to wear a mouth mask. If you want to, you can of course continue to do so. In places where keeping a distance of one and a half meters is more difficult, such as the train, the obligation will continue to exist anyway.
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The repeal of the measure will bring great relief to retailers and supermarkets. Shops have struggled with the mask requirement from the start. Employees felt like police officers who had to uphold the duty. For example, Ahold (Albert Heijn, Etos, Gall & Gall) announced that it would not refuse customers when it was introduced in December. “We cannot evict customers,” an Ahold spokesperson said at the time NRC.
In practice, the mask obligation did indeed lead to more discussions, says a spokesperson for department store chain Hema. “Store employees experience this as annoying. They are enforcers without powers. We have said from the start that we will follow the RIVM advice in this regard. So now that they advise to get rid of the mask obligation, we are happy to be able to take over that too.”
At drugstore chain Kruidvat there was “occasionally an incident” with unwilling customers, but they did not notice “actually little” of the mouth mask obligation. “But everyone craves normal life and this is part of that.”
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In public transport, the obligation to face masks is regularly violated. Especially the last few weeks, Pedro Peters from OV-Nl said to the AD. “Our bus drivers are forced to play more and more police officers.”
sweating a lot
At the Central Bureau for Food Trade (CBL), the representative of supermarkets, they call the masks the “second most hated corona measure”. And not just by customers. “It is very taxing for employees to have to work with such a thing on your head all day,” says CBL director Marc Jansen. “Certainly now that the temperatures are rising, that is sweating a lot.”
Remarkably enough, in various countries with a warmer climate, such as Spain and France, they already had a mask obligation for indoor spaces last summer. “We have not yet experienced a summer with a mouth cap obligation,” says RND director Peters. “If you’re not used to that and the support is also decreasing enormously, then I can only be happy that they are going off.”
However, the various parties in the retail sector emphasize the importance of keeping one and a half meters away. This obligation will remain in effect at least until mid-August, the cabinet said. Or as they say at the Hema: ‘stay ten tompouces away’.
In the shopping street, the Netherlands is actually returning to the situation before December 2020. Even then, distances had to be kept in the shops and businesses were allowed to receive one customer per 10 square meters. That will soon be the case again. “That protocol actually works fine,” says an information officer from the INretail industry association.
However, there seems to be a lack of care here. With the abolition of the mask obligation and the advice to work from home, society can feel that corona has been defeated. And that people do not have to take it closely with the other measures.
It is not uncommon for customers to just walk into a store lately when the stack of baskets with exactly the maximum number of customers has run out. According to Inretail, these are “exceptions at most” and retailers will “just” stick to their own protocol.
That also applies to customers. And therein lies “the challenge for the coming period”, says CBL director Jansen. “Keeping people aware that the virus is not yet defeated. Now that the elderly have been vaccinated, it is time to show solidarity with the young people who have not yet had their shots. Just hold on a little longer to give that virus the final kick.”
With a wink: “And that applies just as much to the king as he goes to do his shopping.”
With the cooperation of Milo van Bokkum.